MEGS Address - PGC Annual Convocation 2017
posted on 03 August 2017
What a huge honour it is for me to standing in front of such an auspicious gathering to address you at this my first Annual Convocation as Grand Superintendent of this marvellous Province of Warwickshire. It is hard to believe where the time has gone since last year, when I was sat roughly where E Comp Chris Rogers is today and heard our Past Grand Superintendent announce his retirement after 10 magnificent years at the helm. Masonry is certainly full of surprises and I think I have been lucky enough to have had more than my fair share but I can honestly say I have enjoyed each and every opportunity that has come my way and none more so than the office I hold today.
Since my Investiture in November last year, I, along with the dedicated Provincial executive have been working hard to build on my predecessor’s legacy to develop a strategy for the future to ensure that Warwickshire Royal Arch Masonry continues to grow. The firmly stated intent is to create an environment where not only is exaltation seen as the next logical step, the fourth step if you will, to complete the Masonic journey, but that it is both avidly desired and aspired to by Craft masons.
As you know I believe that that aspiration can and should be established at the very first stage when a gentleman enquires about joining Freemasonry and reinforced along the early stages of his Craft steps, so that it seems entirely logical that the journey is completed in the Royal Arch. It is equally important Companions that after having taken that fourth step that the Order as a whole embraces the new Companion with all the support, guidance and companionship that should distinguish this Holy Royal Arch Order above all others. This strategy will continue to evolve and develop over the coming months and years and I am reassured by all that I speak to that the support of the whole order is unequivocal and that we are all on the same page in the desire to see Warwickshire Royal Arch masonry thrive.
The people to ensure this happens Companions are all in this room today and none more so than those whom I have had the pleasure of investing and promoting today. Your position was conferred as a reflection of merit, it was considered and decided upon because you have all shown such support and dedication to the Royal Arch over many years and it is a just reward for all your efforts and you should be very proud. I congratulate you all. But companions please make no mistake that this marks the culmination of your efforts, on the contrary. In many respects, it signals the beginning of a new chapter. A chapter in which you can actively support the Province not only at installation and exaltation meetings, but also in those previously stated aims by supporting your chapters and companions in showing your leadership and guidance to ensure their sound futures.
By demonstrating in your Craft Lodges that Royal Arch masonry is fun, is relevant and is exciting and so encourage more of your brethren to take the 4th step. I look to you all for that support and I have no doubts it will be forthcoming.
I am delighted to pay tribute to the outgoing acting officers and officers of year that formed the class of 2016-17 for your support over the last 12 months. You have shown what a true team effort can achieve and I thank you one and all. We have had some great fun and many of the team have gone to huge efforts to attend as many meetings as they could which I have been both pleased and humbled by. I hope you have all enjoyed them as much as I have. The new team, the class of 2017-18 will I am sure rise to the substantial challenge you have set them and I look forward to extoling their support as surpassing even your own, at this time next year.
Companions, we have a number of initiatives being led by various members of the executive to be introduced or further developed over the coming year which we hope will all be well received. Overseeing all of this is my Deputy, E Comp Philip Gough who I was delighted to confirm his continuation in office today. Philip has been an enormous support and guide to me since my investiture. His wise counsel, considered opinion and depth of knowledge can be relied upon not only by me but by all. Companions, we are very lucky to have him.
I have already thanked E Comp Paul Wheeler for his considerable contribution to the Provincial Grand Chapter and from his years of dedicated service he stands as a true role model to those whom I have appointed today. Once again companion Paul, thank you for all you have done and all that I know you will continue to do for the betterment of Royal Arch in Warwickshire.
E Comp John Emms, well known to you all, joins the team today and I was delighted to appoint and invest him as 2nd Provincial Grand Principal. He has immediately been put to work Companions as I have asked E Comp John to put together a series of Royal Arch Roadshows during February next year when he and a small team of companions, ranging from Exaltees to Grand Officers, will travel to various rooms around the province to deliver a fun and informative evening about Royal Arch masonry for the benefit of Craft masons. It will not be a hard sell Companions but will set out reasons why a brother may wish to join when the time is right for him. Your help is needed Companions to make these Roadshows the success we hope them to be and I shamelessly challenge each and every Warwickshire Companion here today to bring along a brother to one of these Roadshows, a brother who is yet to take the fourth step, to experience what I am sure will be a thought-provoking evening.
It seems appropriate to mention at this time the wonderful work that has been done by Royal Arch representatives in Craft Lodges across the Province. They have been steadily working towards bringing the brethren into RA when they feel the time is right. As always Companions it doesn’t hurt to revisit these strategies and I felt that this was one that would benefit from a revamp. I have therefore liaised with the RW PGM, who is himself a passionate RA mason, and agreed that we will make a combined Craft and Royal Arch effort to evolve the scheme over the coming months. All RA reps in Lodges will be replaced by the new Royal Arch Ambassador scheme.
The new scheme will seek to appoint from within the Royal Arch a number of experienced and active companions who will be tasked with looking after up to 3 or 4 Craft lodges and be seen as the ‘go-to brother’ for all matters Royal Arch. He will be expected to visit each of his allocated lodges twice a year and with the PGM’s blessing we would ask that the lodges afford him an item on the summons to talk about the Royal Arch in the Lodge meeting. He will be tasked with getting to know those brethren who are yet to make the final step and to identify, sensitively and sympathetically, when he should join and where he should join. This may be a new master mason keen to move on or equally a seasoned brother who rejected the idea of joining 20 or 30 years ago and no-one has thought to ask him since! The Ambassador scheme will also fall under the remit of E Comp John so he’s going to be a busy man!
E Comp David Evans will be continuing as 3rd Provincial Grand Principals for a second year. This is I recognise a break with tradition in Warwickshire but if we are to be able to develop new ideas and use the talent inherent in the team then I think it is only fair that a reasonable period of time is given for this to allow for the development of ideas and for seeing them through to fruition. E Comp David is responsible for the Education and Development within the province and also to improve our retention by reducing resignations. He is well known for his ‘Talking Heads’ talks and presentations to Craft masons and to this he will develop a support structure for our newer Companions. We are keen to hear from new exaltees what they are thinking and what their experiences have been and a questionnaire is being developed which will be sent to new companions after they have been a member for a year.
I am conscious we have a number of Chapters whose membership is quite small and when presented with the opportunity of a candidate they may struggle to put together a team to perform the ceremony. This is particularly relevant if there is a new Principal Sojourner who we would not wish to overload with the whole ceremony. With this in mind I have asked E Comp Mark Phillips to put together an Exaltation Support Team who can be called upon to visit a chapter, at their own expense, to fill those crucial offices when numbers are low. By example at an exaltation last week E Comp Mark stood in as Principal Sojourner for part of the work at an exaltation with the standard of ritual being exemplary and the dialogue between the MEZ and Mark was most entertaining – a finer exaltation it would be hard to image and the candidate had not only a marvellous experience as a result but also, and most importantly, a great introduction to Royal Arch masonry. E Comp Mark will be approaching companions over the coming months but if you would like to be involved in his team then please make yourself known to him. I don’t want it to be too onerous for any one individual and it would be great if the team were large enough to truly share the work.
The new report scheme for those being considered for appointment to or promotion in the Royal Arch is now being rolled out and I thank E Comp John Harris, the ProvGReg, for his work in this regard. Chapter scribes will receive a form electronically for completion by the Chapter committee and we’d be very grateful if the completed form could be sent to the presiding officer, ideally electronically, in good time before the night of installation so that a fair consideration can be made.
Charity is at the very core of every freemason and none more so than Royal Arch Companions. The Warwickshire Royal Arch Benevolent Fund, under the chairmanship of E Comp Michael Irving has done, and continues to do, outstanding work with recent donations to Warwickshire Air Ambulance and funding the development of the rebound therapy room at Wilson Stuart School in Erdington to be opened later this year. We should all be very proud of the work the trustees do and grateful of the time they all dedicate to the fund. We have previously announced the intention of broadening the scope of the fund by not only making a substantial donation every 2-3 years but also by providing much smaller and quicker donations to suitable charitable good causes – particularly those local to and recommended by a chapter.
For this to succeed companions I would ask of you two things. First to consider those charities close to your chapters that might benefit from a donation, including the use of relief chest envelopes to take advantage of the tax relief, and to let the Provincial Almoner E Comp David Mander or Provincial Charity Steward Fred Ditchfield know. And secondly to ensure that your chapter makes at least one donation to the Benevolent fund each year as without funds nothing can be done. Today’s collection will be going to the Warwickshire Benevolent fund.
Companions communication is at the heart of all we do in this modern age and I have been very keen to develop and strengthen the channels of communication we have in the Province. I hope you have all been receiving the email circulars sent out advertising events and I would ask that you do read them and consider if you can support.
E Comp Andrew Armbrister is very keen to further develop the sharing of news stories from across the Province but is conscious of imposing on Companions’ time commitment by asking them to write an article for the web site. With this in mind he is inviting every companion to ‘Tell Him a Story’ by giving him quick phone call advising him of the newsworthy event, following which and where appropriate, Andrew will write the article and publish it on the various Provincial communication channels. Likewise, E Comp Mike Tumilson is keen to develop the use of video in our communications and I look forward to the development of this idea over the coming 12 months.
Companions – ‘to wear or not to wear that is the question’ – the subject of the wearing of gloves has been kicked around for a while. We don’t wear them in Provincial Grand chapter nor do we wear them in Supreme Grand Chapter. The Chapter Principals don’t wear them and nor do the Provincial Principals when acing as such or when delivering the readings. It seems to me that this can be a matter devolved to the individual chapters in the Province and I am therefore pleased to announce that if any Warwickshire Chapter votes in their committee not to wear gloves then they can choose not to do so in the future. If your Chapters wish is to continue wearing them then that is of course your decision.
At the Supreme Grand Chapter meeting in April it was announced that the Most Excellent 1st Grand Principal will grant one appointment to and one promotion in Grand Rank to celebrate his 50 years as 1st Grand Principal. These will be conferred on 8th November at Supreme Grand Chapter and I thought it would make it a memorable occasion if we could organise a sizeable party from Warwickshire to attend and support the companions concerned. I have asked E Comp David Evans to organise the trip and he will be pleased to hear from anyone keen to attend.
Finally, companions, I am so grateful to those companions who have worked so hard to make today the success we all wished it to be. E Comp Ivan Norris and his three amigos for all they have done in setting up the room and organising the mechanics of the day; the ProvGDC E Comp David Shakeshaft and his team for the detailed and faultless attention to ensuring the ceremonial aspects have gone so smoothly and finally to E Comp David Graham for…well just about everything else – Companions I don’t know what we’d do without him.
Finally - really finally Companions to you all I thank you - for your support, for your dedication, for your passion and for your friendship. You are the very lifeblood of this very special order and the strength of Warwickshire Royal Arch is clearly demonstrated today. Your attendance here is greatly appreciated and may the True and Living God Most High bless you and keep you always.
Thank you, Companions.